One of my friends(who isn’t a believer) recently asked me about why the God of the old testament seems so wrathful, yet the God of the New Testament seems so loving. He felt that these two characters were not the same God.
I would really appreciate it if you could please provide some good articles on this subject.
Have a blessed day,
@linda.1.dagher Great question Exodus 34 is a very important passage to understand God’s character in the OT. God is compassionate and gracious, yet He also punishes the wicked. Jesus is exactly the same way—Jesus warns his listeners of the dangers of judgment more than any other NT character. Jesus’ parables of the sheep and the goats and the ten virgins and the unforgiving servant all end with judgment. Jesus was constantly warning about judgment and yet He was also extending the love and mercy of God as a means of escape from judgment and as a way to find life and life to the full!
Exodus 34:5-7 - Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
Here are some additional resources I hope you find helpful
- Jesus was Jewish and said that He revealed the God of the Old Testament, so Jesus Himself understood there to be continuity between His teaching and the OT
- love your neighbor was in the Old Testament and God was gracious to people like Rahab, Ruth, and Naaman who were foreigners that were accepted into God’s Kingdom
- there are texts in the OT that are difficult to understand as someone who lives in the modern world, but if we take the time to study ancient culture and the Biblical text more carefully, we find good answers
To piggy back on @SeanO I would also consider reading the book of Jonah. This is old testament and Jonah was actually angry because of how forgiving and compassionate God was. Most people never pay attention to that part they only pay attention to the fact Jonah was swallow by a giant fish. We never really consider the fact God wanted a people to be reconciled to him and wouldn’t let jonah just walk away from telling them to repent. That’s how much he loved the people of Nineveh. To this day there are God fearing churches in Nineveh.
Here is a series from Michael Ramsden and he speaks about the book of Jonah.
I hope these help some.
Thank you Luna, I’m sure these would help. Jonah’s story is a great reminder of God’s mercy.
Thank you @SeanO, you always have great wisdom to share!
Good morning @linda.1.dagher - I would add one other thought as a footnote to the excellent answers given above.
While God’s character is unchanging, there does appear to be a subtle change in how He relates to His people after Calvary - which, I suppose, is why your question keeps coming up.
I believe a big clue to this is found in Galatians 4:1-7.
Verses 1-3 describe how God dealt with Old Testament believers as minor children who needed oversight and discipline. But everything changes in verse 4 with the coming of the Messiah.
Then verses 5-7 describe how the indwelling Spirit enables us to be treated as adult sons.
The phrase “adoption of sons” should be viewed more as a “coming of age” event rather than our modern idea of adopting a child into the family. After all, the child has been in the family all the way from verse 1 - but as a minor, he was an heir who couldn’t inherit yet.
But in the New Testament era, the indwelling Spirit produces a spiritual maturity that fits him to inherit all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.
So any difference between how God relates to people in the New Testament as compared to the Old is due to the change in us, not in Him. Any parent of adult children understands that the relationship is different from when they were immature.
I hope this helps to give you a useful perspective.
Good morning Linda, thanks for sharing and wanting to help your friend understand.
I had the view of your questioner. Why was God the Father all about wrath, judgement, and works? The portrayal of Jesus as love and forgiveness was hard to swallow till I met Him. How could polar opposites co-exist as one. I have supplied a link to show what changed my heart about the difference between the two.
If we can truly admit it every attribute quality in each person, we also find in the Father,and Son.
We were made in His image.
Pray that what helped me helps you to reach, someone you truly care about. Blessings
@linda.1.dagher I see you have received lots of great responses from the wonderful RZIM Connect community. I did a bit of research and found a couple more articles for you to consider.
The first comes at it from the perspective that:
The fact that the Bible is God’s progressive revelation of Himself to us through historical events and through His relationship with people throughout history might contribute to misconceptions about what God is like in the Old Testament as compared to the New Testament.
It goes on to show how both testaments show both God’s wrath and his never-ending love.
The second article is from a group I love to read from called Focus on the Family. They begin with the same argument quoting Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
It argues that even Paul’s message of grace can be traced back to the Garden in Genesis 1.
I hope these resources are helpful to you @linda.1.dagher. Have a gread day
Wow, these seem like great resources, thank you ALL for your time and effort !
hello @jlyons ,
Wow, your reply is very thought provoking! I loved the idea that we are now seen as “mature sons and daughters” in the New Testament.
Is it that we can now see more of God’ s glory and character because we are justified and capable of being in a relationship with a just God?
I would love to gain more insight into this idea.
It is because the Holy Spirit was not given to indwell all believers before the resurrection of Christ - John 7:39.
Christ’s death brought into force the Testament whereby His people could finally enter into their eternal inheritance - Hebrews 9:14-17.
Now that He has descended into hell and ascended into heaven (Epheians 4:8-10), we are able to obtain the inheritance (Ephesians 1:11) of all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).
But the very first blessing that this inheritance makes possible for us, the one that God goes ahead and advances to us while we’re still in this life, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).
And really, as wonderful as all the other blessings awaiting us in the resurrection will be, I have to admit that the indwelling Spirit is something I need far more while still in this life. Having a glorified body that can walk on water would be really cool - but what do you think this world needs more - Christians who can walk on water, or who can love their neighbors, the stranger, the difficult people, their enemies?
The transforming power of the Spirit Who produces love, joy, peace and all of the other marvelous graces of this life is what makes us mature - adult children in the sight of God - sons and daughters who can actually handle all the power of the Kingdom. If we had that kind of power as immature Christians, it’d be like handing a chainsaw to a six year old!
Someday we’re going to rule with Christ with a rod of iron. There are times right now when I see things going on in the world around me, and I have to admit - I occasionally think I’d like to use of an iron rod on some people in the here and now! But if God gave me the power to zap people, I’m afraid I’d zap the wrong people!
So instead, He transforms our hearts by this indwelling Spirit, making us mature children - and He turns us loose on a fallen world to show how a heart transformed by love can overcome hatred without zapping anybody! Because love is the real superpower!
So yes, this does allow us to see more of God’s glory and character and enjoy our relationship with Him.
Amen to that!
Enjoyed reading that reply full of wisdom. Oh how we need the guidance and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you Pastor James!
What a great question!
I see that you’ve already received some great answers and some great suggestions about resources. So, I am not going to be redundant and just try to give you a short answer.
God is definitely the same God. You can see that explicitly stated in the Bible in several verses that talk about the “immutability of God”, this means, that attribute of God that states that He doesn’t change or lie. This is a common thread throughout both the Old and the New Testaments.
However, as your friend states, the “character” of God seems to change in between both Testaments. So here’s a twofold answer.
First of all, although at first glance it will seem so. If you carefully read the Bible and study it, you will find that God’s disregard for sin, but His love for humanity never change.
In the old Testament we find expressions such as the Psalm 103:3 where it is said about God that He “forgives all your sins” and then it goes on to say that He is a loving and compassionate father.
At the same time, the New Testament has very harsh words about sin and the outcome of it.
So, the first part of the answer is that, under careful analysis, there really is no variation in substance but more of a change of tone in the message.
The second part has to do with the work of Jesus in the cross, which is the key part to understand the change in tone. Jesus’s work on the cross meant that the rules by which God relates to humanity had also changed. How? Well, before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross man was help directly and completely accountable for his sin. However, after Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice, now man can find forgiveness of sins not by his own lacking works, but by the perfect works of Christ. This change of rules is what some call the “New Dispensation of the grace of God”.
You see? This is the core message of the New Testament, not that God has change, but that through faith in Jesus the way that we relate to Him has change! Those are the good news of the Gospel.
So, in a nut shell. We need to take into account that the New Testament builds up on the teachings of the Old, so the apostles and prophets weren’t worried about repeating what was assumed to be truth but to convey what was new, i. e. the Good News of Jesus Christ.
This means that God remains the same, but through Jesus the relationship was redefined.
Does that makes sense?
Oh yes it does make a lot of sense! @jonasbun. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.